The Accord Coalition has reacted with shock to the news that the government intends to allow religious considerations to trump faith schools’ duty to “promote equality” and “encourage acceptance of diversity” in Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE) lessons.
Religious considerations will also be allowed to override faith schools’ duties to ensure that PSHE is “appropriate to the ages of the pupils concerned and to their religious and cultural backgrounds”, “reflects a reasonable range of religious, cultural and other perspectives” and “emphasises the importance of both rights and responsibilities.”
The Catholic Education Service is openly claiming victory on its website in forcing the amendment from the government, but campaigners say that the u-turn will damage the health and well being of many young people.
Chair of the Accord Coalition Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain said:
“It is astonishing that the government plans to deny young people of their right to accurate, balanced PSHE and Sex and Relationships Education (SRE), and allow state funded schools to teach the subject from a particular religious viewpoint.”
“The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered, contraception a grave sin and relationships outside of marriage fornication, but we don’t think those views should be presented as fact in PSHE lessons. This is a recipe for a return to the bad old days of ignorance and bigotry”
“By taking this position, Ed Balls is implicitly condoning homophobia in schools and undermining attempts to tackle homophobic bullying. After Labour has done so much for equality, this looks like a 21st century Section 28 .”
“He cannot in good faith tell the electorate that Labour supports equality and diversity while denying thousands of young people the right to accurate and balanced PSHE. Why should faith schools be granted the privilege to be prejudiced?”
“We call on him to withdraw the amendment – clearly made under pressure – and urge other parties to vigorously oppose it should he fail to do so”